Wikipedia:WikiProject Pharmacology/Style guide

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For the parent guideline, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style (medicine-related articles).

This is an advice page for the structure of drug and medication articles on Wikipedia, as established by the consensus of Wikipedia:WikiProject Pharmacology. It contains the articles naming conventions and the general recommended outline of an article, as well as useful information to bring an article to good article or featured article status.

The article title and the first name to mention in the lead should be the International Nonproprietary Name (INN) of the drug; see below. The British Approved Name (BAN) or United States Adopted Name (USAN) variant may also be mentioned. The initial brand name(s) and manufacturer follows, in parentheses. All drug names should be in boldface per WP:BOLDTITLE. Indicate the drug class and family and the main therapeutic uses.

The order of sections used in this guideline is recommended for readability and consistency between articles. The order suggested below is to emphasize information sought after by general readers. If you disagree with part of the style guide, please discuss changes on the talk page.

General considerations

Try to avoid cloning drug formularies such as the BNF and online resources like RxList and Extract the pertinent information rather than just dumping low-level facts in a big list. For example, a long list of side effects is largely useless without some idea of which are common or serious. It can be illuminating to compare the drug with others in its class, or with older and newer drugs. Do not include dose or titration information except when they are extensively discussed by secondary sources, necessary for the discussion in the article, or when listing equivalent doses between different pharmaceuticals. Wikipedia is also not an instruction manual or textbook and should not include instructions, advice (legal, medical or otherwise) or "how-to"s (see WP:NOT#HOWTO and the Wikipedia:Medical disclaimer). Finally it is important to keep in mind that we are writing a general encyclopedia, intended to be read by the lay public so it is important to make technical material as accessible as possible to a wide audience but at the same time, not reducing the value of the article to more technical readers including medical doctors, pharmacists, and scientists.

Article name

Wikipedia policy on naming convention states that, "naming should give priority to what the majority of English speakers would most easily recognize, with a reasonable minimum of ambiguity, while at the same time making linking to those articles easy and second nature." To that end, the World Health Organization International Nonproprietary Name (INN) should normally be used as the article name.

Articles to use INN

A drug article should be titled according to its International Nonproprietary Name (INN), also known as recommended International Nonproprietary Name (rINN), if one exists, except in unusual circumstances where another common name is more appropriate.[nb 1] For example, "paracetamol" and "acetaminophen" are two common names for the same analgesic, and "paracetamol" is the INN. The relevant Wikipedia article has the page name Paracetamol, and a redirect at Acetaminophen. If a compound exists in salt form, then the INN is the name of the active moiety unless it is a quaternary compound, in which case the INN consists of two parts: the cation and the anion name. For example, "chlorphenamine maleate" is the INN modified (INNM) of a common first-generation antihistamine, thus the INN of the active moiety is used as the page title: Chlorphenamine. On the other hand, tiotropium is a quaternary ammonium cation, so the INN used as the title is Tiotropium bromide. If an INN has yet to be formally listed by WHO, but a proposed INN (pINN) exists, it is considered to be equivalent to the INN with respect to this guideline.

A page should mention other names in the lead section, in boldface, and the naming reference noted if possible. Those other common names of the drug should redirect to that page. For example, the page Albuterol redirects to the page Salbutamol, which notes in the first sentence that "salbutamol" is the INN and "albuterol" is the United States Adopted Name (USAN).

INNs are published by the World Health Organization in the journal WHO Drug Information. All issues of the journal, and lists of all proposed and recommended INNs from 1955 onward, are available in PDF on the WHO website.

Standard combination drugs

Since no international convention exists to guide naming of standard combination drugs, this guideline encourages the use of page titles containing the active constituents separated by the slash ("/") character. For example, the standard combination of isosorbide dinitrate and hydralazine, used to treat congestive heart failure in African Americans, is described in the page Isosorbide dinitrate/hydralazine.

Where ambiguity exists as to the order in which drugs should be listed, the British Approved Name for the combination (if one exists) or the order used by the manufacturer of the innovator brand should be used as a guide. For example, although no BAN exists for isosorbide dinitrate/hydralazine above, the manufacturer of the innovator brand "BiDil" lists the constituents in that order. Alternative names should be redirected to the chosen name. Non-standard proprietary combination preparations are discouraged, and fall outside the scope of this guideline. For example, a hypothetical "paracetamol/dextromethorphan/pseudoephedrine" page is discouraged and does not fall under this guideline.

Tasks related to this guideline can be found at Wikipedia:WikiProject Pharmacology/Workspace#Naming conventions.


Nonproprietary names are common nouns and hence should be lower case except in titles, the beginning of sentences, and in other situations that require capitalization.[1] In contrast, trade names are proper nouns and should always be capitalized.


Infoboxes should be used where appropriate. These include

Full instructions are available on the page for each infobox. A suitable picture for the infobox is encouraged. For drugs, the 2D structure in SVG format is preferred, but PNG is acceptable. The easiest way to populate the drugbox and protein templates is to use Diberri's template-filling web site. Search DrugBank for the drug and enter the ID[2] in this page, or search HUGO for the protein and enter the ID[3] in this page.


The ordering of section may vary depending on the article type


Primarily medication-related pages should contain information organized into the following sections, with attention to order.

  1. Lead
    The lead section is defined as "the section before the first headline. The table of contents, if displayed, appears between the lead section and the first headline." The lead of an article, if not the entire article, should be written as simply as possible without introducing errors or ambiguity. It is also reasonable to have the lead introduce content in the same order as the body of the text. In articles about drugs, they should describe the drug in question, as well as what it does. If a substance is used primarily as a drug, it should be noted so. Most of our readers access Wikipedia on mobile devices, and excess naming becomes clutter that prevents swift access to the heart of the matter. Therefore, avoid cluttering the lead with multiple alternatives to the INN name, such as the British Approved Name (BAN) or United States Approved Name (USAN), development codenames, and the pronunciation -- that content can go in the infobox or the body of the article. In parentheses, list the main or initial brand names for the drug. If there are more than a few brand names, it is best to list these separately in the body of the article.
    1. Drugbox This is not a section per se, but it should be included in every drug-related article. In the source code of the article, it appears before the article lead. It is displayed at the top-right corner of the page. For ATC codes, see below. More information can be found at the template documentation. User:Fuzzform is able to provide images.
  2. Medical uses
    This section should go into further detail regarding what the medication is used for (for each major indication). Take special care with regulatory terms; since drug approvals vary from country to country, so does the distinction between approved and off-label uses. A more detailed description of drug regulation should go to the section Legal status, further down. Detailed dosage information is not recommended as it may be construed as medical advice and be easily subject to vandalism or uninformed good-faith edits.
    1. Available forms
      This section details what forms the drug is available in. Information includes route of administration (e.g. oral, i.v., i.m., rectal, parenteral, intranasal. Oral forms of administration should be differentiated: tablets, crushable tablets, capsules (containing powder, gel, or sprinkle beads), enteric-coated or slow-release tables/capsules, syrup, sugar-free liquid, or powder (soluble or for suspension). Only include this section if the Routes of administration field of the drugbox does not provide enough space.
    2. Specific populations
      Include one or more of the following subsections if appropriate:
      1. Pregnancy
      2. Labor and delivery
      3. Lactation
      4. In children
      5. In the elderly
  3. Contraindications
    Under what circumstances should the drug in question not be used? Distinguish relative and absolute contraindications if possible.
  4. Adverse effects or Side effects
    The adverse effects (including withdrawal symptoms, if applicable) should be mentioned, as well as whether they are common, uncommon, or rare. The latter should only be mentioned if severe or otherwise notable. If possible, use specific statistics (be sure to cite sources!). Use side effect percentages with placebo/control vs. percentage with drug/experimental.
  5. Overdose
    This section describes symptoms of overdose, what to do in case of overdose, and the LD50 (median lethal dose), if it is available.
  6. Interactions
    This section should note what other drugs/food interact with the drug in question, and what effect(s) are produced by this interaction.
  7. Pharmacology
    1. Mechanism of action or Pharmacodynamics
      If known, describe the molecular mechanism of action including the specific biological target of the drug (for example which receptor subtype, ion channel population, isozyme, etc. the drug binds to) and if the drug blocks or activates that target. If relevant, mention what endogenous substance (neurotransmitter, hormone, substrate, etc.) is mimicked or blocked by the drug. Also describe the downstream consequences of modulating that target (what signal transduction pathways are impacted, what genes are up or down regulated, etc.) and how modulating the activity of the target ultimately translates into the desired therapeutic effect (that is, the mode of action, for example vasodilation resulting in decreased blood pressure). If the mechanism of action is not known, this section should state that.
    2. Pharmacokinetics
      This section should describe the clinically relevant pharmacokinetic parameters of a drug or active metabolites and the mechanisms of clearance (e.g., specific enzyme systems or transporters). List the bioavailability, volume of distribution, protein binding, half-life, clearance, major metabolic pathways (e.g. phase I and/or phase II and the major metabolizing enzymes for example CYP2D6, CYP3A4, monoamine oxidase, UGT2B7). Some of this information is also included in the drugbox.
  8. Chemistry
    Include information on the chemical structure, stereochemistry, and chemical composition of the drug (e.g., free base, hydrochloride salt, etc.), physical characteristics, and notable chemical properties. Basic physicochemical properties such as melting pointing, solubility and other raw data should be placed in the drugbox.
    1. Synthesis (only necessary for articles tagged by {{WikiProject Chemicals}})
    2. Detection in body fluids
  9. History
    When writing about the history of the drug, only include this section if a sufficient amount of information on the drug's origin and/or first synthesis is available. If so, there should be a timeline of first synthesis, approval dates (U.S., Europe, UK, etc.), when marketing stopped or ownership transferred, etc.
  10. Society and culture
    Don't use this section for adding WP:TRIVIA to the article.
    1. Legal status Describe regulatory status in different regions of the world.
    2. Recreational use If applicable, describe recreational usage (i.e. abuse) and other illicit usage (for example, using flunitrazepam to facilitate robbery/as a date rape drug).
    3. Economics Global sales, distribution, etc.; but generally not prices in different countries.
    4. Brand names Brand names of the medication and manufacturer, if notable.
    5. Controversies Controversies surrounding the medication, if notable.
  11. Research Ongoing investigations into a medication that have not reached clinical usage
  12. Veterinary use
    If different from use in humans or otherwise notable.
  13. See also
    Avoid the See also section when possible; prefer wikilinks in the main article and navigation templates at the end.
  14. References
    These are essential. Unreferenced "information" may be deleted or moved to the talk page. As guidelines we have Wikipedia:Attribution, Wikipedia:Reliable sources and Wikipedia:Reliable sources (medicine-related articles). In short: The popular press is generally not a reliable source for medicine information. See also Wikipedia:Manual of Style (medicine-related articles)#Citing medical sources.
  15. External links
    Avoid this section if possible, since it is a magnet for spam. Links to on-line pharmacies and blogs will be deleted.
  16. Navigational templates
    This is not a section — it comes after the last section in the article — but it is nonetheless an important part of any drug article. Most families of drugs already have a template; see Wikipedia:WikiProject Pharmacology/Templates and the appropriate ATC list (e. g. ATC code L04 for an immunosuppressant) for which template(s) to use.
  17. Categories and language links
    Look for similar articles to check for what categories they belong to and add the article to any appropriate categories. If no similar articles can be found, add the article to any categories that seem appropriate. See Wikipedia:WikiProject Pharmacology/Categorization for categories to choose from. A stub template, if applicable, goes below the category links. See Category:Pharmacology stubs for templates to choose from. Language links go right to the bottom.

Please see Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Pharmacology/General/Main sections of drug page for related discussion.

For combination drugs, the content should primarily focus on what particular effects the combination has, such as drug synergy. Regular effects of the active ingredients should be strictly summarized, with clear linking to their main articles for further reading.

Drug classes

Add a section listing "Agents" in the class.

Recreational agents

For articles on agents that are primarily recreational in use a section on the "Effects" of the agent early is recommended. This may be followed by sections on "Recreational uses" and "Medical uses".

ATC codes

ATC codes and ATCvet codes should be added to the drugbox. If there is more than one, use the ATC_supplemental parameter together with the templates {{ATC}} and {{ATCvet}}. This ensures proper linking of the codes – to the ATC lists (ATC code A01 etc.) as well as to the WHO database. Recommended sorting of multiple codes:

  1. ATC codes before ATCvet codes
  2. Within these two groups, sort alphabetically

There is currently no consensus whether codes for drug combinations should be added to articles about single drugs. If you do so, add "(combination with [[drug X]])" or the like, using the ATC_supplemental parameter.

Drugs without an ATC(vet) code should have set ATC_prefix = none.


  1. ^ Notable exceptions include lysergide, amfetamine, metamfetamine, diamorphine, and tenamfetamine, which redirect to an article title that differs from the INN listed here.
    Category:Infobox drug articles with non-default infobox title contains an updated list of of articles that don't follow this article title guideline and include the INN in the drugbox INN parameter; these articles are listed under the underscore section.


  1. ^ CBE Style Manual Committee (2002). "Chaper 19: Drugs and Pharmacokinetics". Scientific Style and Format: the CBE Manual for Authors, Editors and Publishers (6th ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. p. 324. ISBN 978-0-521-47154-1. 
  2. ^ DrugBank IDs follow the format APRDxxxxx, and may be found in the page's URL.
  3. ^ HUGO IDs follow the format hgnc_id=xxxx, and may also be found in the page's URL.
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